Mildred Harris sat on the board of directors of Intercom Foundation for Human Growth. Their big project was a progressive halfway house on Robertson Boulevard. On paper it was a therapeutic community for young adults who were just out of state hospitals. At Mildred’s urging I considered making a film there.
For a few days I hung out at the place. The ambiance was anything but menacing. I felt curiously at ease among the residents and the long hair therapists. Before that I had virtually no experiences in psychiatric facilities other than twice briefly visiting what were called mental institutions: Once when accompanying a friend from Brandeis who did volunteer social work and the second time when shooting my unfinished documentary on assassination.
I met with Mildred and agreed to make the film.
The fact that we produced this short documentary before Hurry Tomorrow is significant though I don’t think I realized why at the time. Beyond the pilot helping us raise money and gain access to the state hospital I think the filmmaking experience served a higher purpose. It provided me with an unconscious point of reference for when we stepped into the locked ward to film Hurry Tomorrow. Emotions were largely absent or forbidden at the hospital. People were punished for expressing themselves. The halfway house had shown me a range of intense emotions humans feel and the possibilities we have through them to understand our lives.
“Richard Cohen the director may refer to this film as a “pilot”, but its power as a finished piece
is readily apparent because it captures and communicates human despair and human kindness.”
Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Dan Early August 30, 1973
Mildred collected a couple of thousand dollars for the halfway house film budget. At that point I asked Kevin Rafferty to join me in Los Angeles to shoot it. The shooting went without a hitch. Kevin and I teamed up and produced the film together. For me Kevin provided perfect cinematography. I could stand aside knowing the image would be there and usually in the way I wanted. He was an athlete and moved like a dancer. He worked from the heart with great documentary instincts and ideas. I’ve only worked with two other cinematographers that I trusted as much Baird Bryant and John Knoop. Movement and space were important to me both in this film and in Hurry Tomorrow.
Over the few years we worked together Kevin and I had a friendly and a ferocious partnership. Independent documentary work is very collaborative. Our history of butting heads led me to insist upon a written agreement for Hurry Tomorrow that defined what is important to me in the work: controlling the direction of the film. The only disagreement I remember during the shooting of Two Days… was when a girl crouches in the courtyard and cries. Kevin’s compassion kicked in. He wanted to comfort her. I directed him to keep filming. Let events unfold. A moment later a therapist came out and took her into the office. We followed them.
“It is so extraordinary it is hard to imagine the two filmmakers won’t find the money to expand the material”
The Hollywood Reporter Alan Howard August 31, 1973